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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 18:16 GMT
Tube crash sparks war of words
Marble Arch station on the Central line
Commuters may face a week of disruption
A furious row has erupted between the train drivers' union and management over safety issues relating to Tube trains.

It centres on who is responsible for taking suspected faulty trains out of service, following last Saturday's derailment at Chancery Lane station on the Central line.

In a separate development, London Underground (LU) has been asked to prove that the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) was not to blame for the accident, which injured 32 people.

The growing conflict comes as commuters face a second day of disruption to their journeys while investigations continue into the cause of the crash.

Tube disruption
Central and Waterloo and City Lines closed until Tuesday
Chancery Lane, St Paul's and Bank (Central line only) stations closed for several weeks
Buses running from Epping to Chingford and Stratford
Disruption worse than after the 1987 Kings Cross disaster

The RMT union said the driver of the damaged train had reported a fault about eight stations before Chancery Lane but had been told to continue with the journey.

The train was about to be taken out of service at Holborn, the next station after Chancery Lane.

LU said drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem.

However, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said this was a "blatant lie" and drivers were bullied if they refused to move trains on safety grounds.

Open in new window : Tube crash
How the accident happened

The RMT said one of its members lodged a complaint just a week ago about being threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to move a train after he heard banging noises.

And it had a string of employment tribunal cases involving Tube staff sent home without pay for allegedly refusing to move trains on safety grounds during strikes by firefighters.

Glass shattered over passengers
Investigations are continuing into the crash
Mr Crow said: "The crazy financial performance regime now operating on the Tube under which fines are levied for late running has put our members under intolerable pressure.

"It underlines our fears for the future safety of the network under part-privatisation.

"The process should be stopped now before any more damage is done."

LU reacted by maintaining that drivers' hands were never forced over the issue of safety and just as a captain was responsible for the safety of a ship, safety of a train was down to the driver.

Liberal Democrat London affairs spokesman Tom Brake called on LU and the government to prove the shadow running of PPP on the Central Line had not contributed to the accident.

LU have stressed the section of track on which the accident happened was maintained by a wholly-owned subsidiary, not a private contractor.

Further delays

Commuters faced long delays and journey diversions on Monday after the whole of the Central and Waterloo and City lines were closed.

The situation is set to continue into Tuesday and neither line may re-open until Friday, LU has warned.

Facts are now starting to emerge about the crash

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds

The Central Line is one of the capital's main arteries and the Tube's longest line, with 49 stations - including Bond Street and Oxford Circus.

Between them the two lines carry 600,000 passengers a day.

The derailed train had been examined on Thursday, but the whole fleet is now undergoing further checks.

All 85 trains under scrutiny were built between 1991 and 1994 and entered service on the Waterloo and City Line in 1993 and on the Central Line between 1993 and 1995.

If you have been affected by the Tube line closure, use the postform below to tell us of your journey. If you have a digital picture of the travel chaos, you can send that as an attachment to

Have your say

Waterloo was extremely crowded at 9.30am (people were being held back on the station concourse and not allowed underground for safety reasons) but everyone seemed to melt away when I headed for Bank - I took the route that LU recommended, via Elephant & Castle and the Northern Line, and it was almost deserted until the last couple of stops.
Andy Darley, England

I travel across town every day, Gants Hill to Lancaster Gate - this morning was truly chaotic. Buses were whizzing by full, overland rail was so overcrowded people were falling ill and Liverpool Street was just impossible. The journey took two and a half hours instead of one hour. Really looking forward to the return journey this evening - God bless London Transport!
Martin, UK

Does anyone else have a sense of deja-vu about this? It seems horribly reminiscent of the spate of accidents that occurred on the railways as they were being "rationalised" prior to privatisation. When will someone make the argument that the Underground is a public good, and therefore should not and cannot pay for itself through ticket sales? It pays for itself by moving five million workers and tourists around London every day, and therefore should be centrally funded to the level it needs to function safely. This PPP is not about bringing private sector efficiencies to a bloated inefficient public sector dinosaur, it's about reducing the state's liabilities and outgoings. Personally I am quite happy to think of a small portion of my taxes being "wasted", if it means that I can travel to my destination safely and punctually. No other city I have lived in has this ludicrous approach to collective goods.
Oscar Franklin, England

The Tube needs a large investment over a long period of time to modernise and develop its service. By doing this it should help relieve future rush hour congestion. Simple eh! The idea that this can only be done via some bizarre market forces mechanism of the PFI is in my view madness. It will cost more money than if the state funded it directly and honestly. The reason we are not doing this is due to the Treasury and its ideology.
Mike, UK

Returning to Epping from a theatre visit, we entered the tube system at Embankment and tried to switch to the Central line at Mile End. There we were told to return to the District line and go to West Ham to catch the Jubilee line to Stratford. At Stratford, we were told to travel via National Rail to Romford where we could catch the #500 bus to Epping. The bus was a half-hour later than scheduled and the entire trip was almost 3 hours rather than the half-hour we had expected. But, at least we weren't stranded, and the tube people were very helpful.
Steve Sloboda, UK

The statement that drivers could refuse to continue a journey if they thought it unsafe absolutely reeks of gutless management. The driver clearly thought there was a problem, that's why he reported it. LU decided they could safely ignore his opinion, and now they don't want to accept responsibility for that judgement. Safety should come first in a hostile environment - underground in a tunnel with lethal voltages inches under the floor of the train. LU should be big enough to own up that they got it wrong in this instance. Their evasion of responsibility doesn't fill me with confidence when I get on a tube.
Alistair Dixon, UK

LU has shown insensitivity

Elizabeth, UK
My brother-in-law was on that train - happily he's fine. The things that shocked everyone talking about it on Saturday was (a) some LU spokesman was saying we should be grateful(!) that there was no terrorism involved and (b) LU saying that the train driver is ultimately responsible for safety. LU has shown insensitivity and their craven attempt to cover their own backsides is truly outstanding.
Elizabeth, UK

I noticed there were far more people walking today, as I walk from Waterloo to the city every day in order to avoid the tube! To avoid further unnecessary congestion at Waterloo( very congested this morning), it would be good if SWT staff could not insist on having six ticket checkers on each gate. When the trains are already late and platforms crowded this just causes more bad feeling and delay.
Jo La Bouchardiere, UK

We are paying for not having a Paris type RER system in London. Most cross town journeys would be greatly shortened and a lot of traffic taken off the tubes if we had the same system as Paris with rapid East-West, South-North lines that call only at key stations. And it would help a lot in incidents like this one on the Central line. We do have the pilot for such a system - Thameslink - but what do our planners do - reduce the service during rush hours!
Mark Lewis , UK

Does this mean Ken Livingstone will delay the start of congestion charging until this latest blow to London's derisible transport infrastructure is sorted? It is clear that we just do not have the (public) means to safely move people around the capital and Ken is not only kidding himself that buses can make up for the pitiful shortfall but is putting lives at risk daily in pursuing his half-baked policies.
I speak as one who is uses public transport daily but am concerned about the burden that Ken will add to the system from Feb, with no associated investment in our tube/rail network to support the influx. Clearly no one is capable of giving Londoners the commitment or investment they warrant. Injury or loss of life (as witnessed on our national rail network) is insufficient incentive to sort this out? What WILL it take?
Martin Evans, UK

What an outrageous comment made by LU to say "...that drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem." It's typical of this country and especially of transport to "pass the buck" and blame everybody but themselves. At the end of the day, it is LU's responsibility, not the drivers driving the trains!
Phuzzy, UK

All forms of public transport should have remained in the Public Sector. Since conversion to the private sector we have seen the demise of the well established bus building industry and chassis manufacturers in the UK, an increase in fares and no improvements to services but an increase in the use of cars in order to conduct our lives because public transport has failed.
Most of the operations are now provided by large private sector companies - had our politicians not become involved the National Bus Company would now be providing a service second to none. In recent times we have noted the problems on the Railways - why put the tube into the hands of the private sector particularly if subsidies are having to be paid to private sector operators.
John Lodge, England

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  The BBC's Simon Montague
"It means serious inconvenience"
  Andy Byford, London Underground
"It is too early to say what the cause of the accident was"
  Bobby Law, RMT
"Our drivers are pressurised on a regular basis to keep trains in service"

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27 Jan 03 | England
23 Jan 03 | England
03 Feb 02 | Politics
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